Mini rolls with glam rock band Kiss

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Mini USA chief Jim McDowell has never adhered to BMW's corporate dress code of dark suits and modest ties. Instead, he always dons wild Hawaiian shirts and T-shirts with the brand's name.

But he outdid himself at the New York auto show this week when he bounded on stage at the Mini stand sporting a crazy black wig and make-up just like the famous and wild rock band Kiss.

Three members of Kiss bounded out as well to show off four specially decorated Mini models -- the Demon, Spaceman, Catman and Starchild -- signed and painted to match each band player's makeup and garb. (The fourth Kiss member couldn't attend.)

Even in his big hair, McDowell had to peer upward at high-heeled and tall, spandex-clad middle-aged rockers who performed the same kind of jumping antics they do in concert.

Mini USA Chief Jim McDowell, left, and the high-heeled, spandex-clad middle-aged rockers of Kiss kicked off Mini’s new test drive program - Mini Rocks the Rivals.

Photo credit: MINI

Kiss was brought in to kick off Mini's new test drive program, Mini Rocks the Rivals. Kiss-painted Mini Countryman crossovers and three competitive vehicles -- the Toyota RAV4, Nissan Juke and Volkswagen Tiguan -- are going on tour to 102 Mini dealers starting next week.

Potential customers will be able to drive all four of those vehicles in the hope that they'll choose the new Countryman, which went on sale Jan. 11.

The four Kiss cars will be auctioned on eBay on May 29, and proceeds will go to UNICEF to assist with relief efforts in Japan and to aid other displaced children, says McDowell.

Dealers will also offer vehicle wraps of each Kiss car to Mini customers for an as-yet undetermined price. Proceeds from the wraps will also be donated to UNICEF.

Kiss' appearance -- heavily promoted by Mini -- drew an unusually large crowd.

Kiss got the applause, but McDowell got the chuckles.

You can reach Diana T. Kurylko at dkurylko@crain.com. -- Follow Diana on Twitter

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